9/11/08

11Sep08
I suppose as someone who claims to blog, often about politics and society, I’m obligated to write a post about today.
I don’t want to share the story of where I was, or who I was with, or what I remember from different times of day. My day was fairly uneventful, being a typical school day in high school. For today, that’s enough.
Today instead, I want to talk about why I’m sad. I’m sad because we as a nation have not responded to 9/11/01 in a way that I think is best for us. Instead of potentially opening our eyes to the complicated nature of cultures and motivations across the world, we’ve chosen to see two sides, us and “them.” I can’t count how many times since 2001 I’ve heard that “they” want to destroy us for our freedoms, for no true reason, at any cost, etc… so we have to stand up and take the fight to “them” wherever “they” may be.
I don’t believe this is the right way to view the world.
We’ve missed an incredible moment, perhaps inevitably, since the pain of loss is rarely a particularly enlightening teacher… but we’ve missed the chance to update our national myths to include the idea that other, decent people on this Earth might not view the US as the best nation in the world. We’ve missed a chance to acknowledge where we stand in the world, slightly less hindered by our national myth of perfect grace and knowledge with unchecked power.
Does this mean I believe that the loss wasn’t tragic? No. Does this mean I believe we were at fault? Not in the simple cause and effect way that question implies. Does this mean I’m a terrorist sympathizer, helping them win by spreading the notion of American fallibility throughout our populace? No, because I think the capacity to acknowledge one’s faults makes one stronger rather than weaker.
But I do believe Americans know as little about the rest of the world which they inhabit as they did seven years ago. A majority of Americans still can’t locate Iraq on a map, describe the difference between Sunnis and Shiites, or list the major historical events that directly led up to Al Qeada’s attack.
This is not what I would’ve hoped for given an event like 9/11/01.
At the same time, the government has been passing laws to curtail more rights without ever promising that they’ll be given back. “It’s a post 9/11 world” I’ve heard many times, but I haven’t been able to tell what that means other than America got scared so she’s acting less rationally. Terrorism laws have been passed with such broad definitions that the laws are now being used against the protesters at the RNC… people who you would’ve been crazy to consider a problem if you’d brought them up when the laws were written.
And too few seem to be truly interested in reversing the trend.
This is why, today, I am sad.
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